Sojourner Truth - Ex-slave and Fiery Abolitionist
According to many sources “Ain’t I a Woman?” is Sojourner Truth's most recognized impromptu speech. The speech was given at a women’s rights convention in Akron, Ohio in 1851. Frances Gage, a feminist activist and author, recorded the event. The speech was published more than twelve years later in 1863.
Frances Gage reported that Truth encountered hissing and hostility as she began to speak. Yet there is much debate and conflicting reports on how she was received.
According to Carleton Mabee, “Gage's account is not consistent with other reports written immediately after the speech” (Delivered).
Contrary to Gage’s reports, it is reported that Truth did not encounter hostility, but rather the audience received her well, “By the time she finished, even some of the clergymen were applauding” (Newsweek). Other reports of the event note “hundreds rushed up to shake hands with her, and congratulate the glorious old mother, and bid her God-speed on her mission of "testifyin' agin concerning the wickedness of this 'ere people."
(Biographical) Carleton Mabee asserts that “Gage accurately reported some of what Truth said and embellished other parts.” (Delivered) Carleton Mabee also asserts Sojourner Truth's repetition of the famous phrase "Ain't I a Woman" was most likely added by Frances Gage. This phrase was not documented in any news story covering the convention, or in any other speeches that Truth made later (Delivered).
Who was Sojourner Truth you ask? At the time of the speech she was an ex-slave and a fiery abolitionist. She was born Isabella Bomefree in Hurley, Ulster County, NY. Her exact birth date is unknown. Some sources believe that she was born about 1797, while other sources note 1795 and still others believe 1799. Her parents of course were both slaves. Isabella was sold four times and borne thirteen children. She escaped the bondage of slavery in the 1820’s and gained legal freedom in the year 1827. “A deeply religious woman, Isabella took the name Sojourner Truth after God spoke to her” (Sojourner). She was convinced that God had called her to preach throughout the country, spreading the truth.
Sojourner Truth was a figure of imposing physique. “She was more than six feet tall and built like a linebacker with huge muscles from working in the fields” (Newsweek). She was a riveting preacher and spellbinding singer who dazzled listeners with her wit and originality. She ended her famous speech with, “Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner ain't got nothing more to say." (Newsweek)
Truth was an illiterate woman of remarkable intelligence. Sojourner became a national symbol for not only strong black women, but to white women as well. She helped all women who were unhappy with the limitations imposed upon them. She was one of the most outspoken advocates, active in both the campaign to extend equal rights to all women and abolition (America). She is also...